Mini film reviews – Part Two

My early ’18 film-watching escapades have not ceased (although they have been challenged by some rather good television shows and not a little personal upheaval, the first of which subjects I might even blog about sooner or later), so here’s another ten quick reviews:

Coco

Brace yourselves for the controversial opinion: Coco was really, very nice. Interesting that (not sure if this one will hold up to scrutiny, but what the hell) it went deeper into negativity than your average mainstream cartoon feature, with theft, betrayal and murder, both successful and attempted — although since “death” is front-and-centre as a concept perhaps this opens the door to it. If I had to criticise, perhaps it’s a little predictable in the core twist but, as is often the case with me and animated family heart-warmers, there was not a dry eye in my face well before the end.

Jack Reacher

Yes, well. This was tracked down and put away solely because the first Jack Reacher novel, Killing Floor, turned out to be such a good read that it made my best of list for 2017, despite my long-standing and lamentable bias against the author. And this is, meh, it’s fine, I guess. A bit like Robert Downey Jnr. being (imho) the wrong choice to play Sherlock Holmes after making Tony Stark his own, here Tom Cruise’s presence means this feels like Ethan Hunt taking a scenery break from Mission Impossible and having to do it all without the high tech and rubber masks. Something to play in the background while you do other things. But not bad.

Zombieland

First repeat viewing of the year (but not last of the month), mainly because I recently signed up to Amazon Prime in Spain (it’s so cheap, about a quarter of the UK price! (and also why I tried Jack Reacher, come to think of it, and it was watched in a similar manner)), and it is funny from time to time. Woody Harrelson has that easy charisma, Jesse Eisenberg has that easy annoyance, Emma Stone is, an, actress who plays the love interest, Abigail Breslin is– Little Miss Sunshine, fucking hell, I’d never have guessed. Bill Murray delivers maybe the all-time most knowing cameo in cinema history. Plays the tropes well, it’s acceptable air-filler.

Eastern Promise

Another spur-of-the-moment retread courtesy of online streaming. Viggo Mortensen is really good, but my reaction now is exactly as it was ten years ago: that the film is tonally weird, with Naomi Watts’ soapish home life so flat it could be a photo, while all the other gangsters play it so over-blown you could be watching a scenery eating contest. Parts of the script are just clumsy, much of the cinematography is drab, yet whenever Mortensen in on screen he’s fascinating. Apart from in the completely nothing final shot, which sums up the film really, since it doesn’t do what it ought to, for me.

The Deer Hunter

It must be twenty years since my first and only previous viewing, and my recollections of The Deer Hunter were about 80% accurate. I “remembered” a tidier version of Cimino’s film, one that was maybe half an hour shorter and which ended on the striking symbolism of Mike’s sparing the buck, rather than having that moment preceed his return to Saigon to rescue Nick. Still, an engrossing film. The ensemble cast embodying small-town life are excellent, and in the first Vietnam face-off the presentation of traumatic emotional damage by John Savage, Robert De Niro and (especially) Christopher Walken is pretty devastating.

The Founder

Michael Keaton plays the man who founded– well, actually, the man who found McDonald’s and started turning it into what it is today. An entertaining biopic that deftly manages to avoid coming across as a total corporate promotional tool by progressively souring its central subject, a salesman whose admiration for a genuinely good thing never fully overcomes his avarice.

Huh. I just realised that, apart from the first, every film in this list came courtesy of Amazon Prime – guess I’m the corporate tool…

Santoalla

An interesting true crime documentary (as it turns out) about the disappearance of a Dutch expat who vanished from a remote, almost deserted village in the North-west of Spain, leaving his bewilder-stricken wife alone with their only neighbours: an ageing family of four whom they had gradually fallen out with over the years… Mostly composed of intimate interviews with the apparent widow and, surprisingly, those neighbours, the film achieves a very personal atmosphere which gradually expands to reveal not so much facts as implications. The end result is a slow, sad, painful story of a sweet dream realised, and then destroyed.

Public Enemies

I found Public Enemies almost entirely unengaging. Maybe the first and final five minutes were okay (noticeable that supporting characters are critical to the action at both ends – Depp and Bale do not work Michael Mann’s De Niro/Pacino magic here), but the rest was a great big nothing, starting with a script that would be most easily delivered by ventriloquist dummies, given how jaw-droppingly obvious every other line of dialogue turned out to be. And while sometimes it had a certain visual style, more often I felt like I was watching a TV show. Yeah, not good at all.

Airplane!

My god, it’s good. It’s so good. It’s non-stop good. I remember laughing at this when I was, I dunno, eight or ten years old, and over three-quarters of my life later I’m still just pissing myself for an hour and a half. This time around I revisited a major juvenile crush on Julie Hagerty (actually all the cabin-crew turned off my no smoking sign), and was extra happy to discover that, I think, I’d only ever seen a slightly-sanitised-for-British-TV version in the past — one of the suicides seemed new anyway. Top five comedy movie? I’m deadly serious. And don’t call me Shirley.

Fatal Attraction

Is it possible that I’d never actually seen this movie before? Of course, I knew the story back-to-front as if I had, but throughout I found myself uncertain. Watched in the present climate, it’s occasionally hard to not see in Glenn Close the embodiment of something Hollywood wouldn’t try to get away with any more, but there’s a brittleness to her performance that expresses a mostly unspoken backstory of pain in a very effective way. And Michael Douglas’s lead finds a balance of sympathetic and contemptible weakness that makes his culpable victim an interesting focus.


Twenty movies down, countless more to come. Here’s the first ten, in case you’re interested.

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The Call Back – Sue Burke

Welcome to the slightly grainy world of the Call Back Interviews, a chance for previous guests to return for a more detailed, in-depth chat. The word counts are off and the axe is back on the wall where it belongs – so why not relax and kick back in a patented, 50s-through-70s-styled green leather chair and get ready to talk about Life, the Universe, and Everything

as shiny new novelist Sue Burke recently did! Continue reading